Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Click to viewThe AT&T LG Vu is the latest multimedia touchscreen phone on the floor at CTIA, offering haptic touchscreen feedback, Mobile TV and a pretty intuitive user interface. While the presentation of the hardware and software is beautiful, and the AT&T's MediaFlo-powered Mobile TV service is pretty slick, the lack of power in the web browser and sub-menu interfaces don't quite hold up to similar options (cough...iPHONE...cough).

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

Hands-on With AT&T's LG VU Multimedia Phone (AT&T Mobile TV is No Joke)

The selling point of the Vu is definitely the Mobile TV service. It's implementation here is solid. Mobile TV is a legit service, a step up from AT&T's older Verizon V Cast-like CV service. The phone's homescreen has an easily accessible icon at the bottom, and the entire interface is based around the Vu's touchscreen. It comes with a pull-out antenna, but LG says its meant for use in remote areas. The TV screen itself has buttons for channel up/down and another that brings up an electronic program guide similar to what you'd see in satellite or digital cable. The best part is that the guide is completely touch-friendly and you can jump from channel to channel just by touching a show on the guide.

The touchscreen itself is solid for the most part. The haptic feedback lets you know when you've pressed a button, though the screen does require a fairly firm push to get it to respond. It was especially speedy and accurate in the front screen menu and the subsequent apps menus.

The horizontal QWERTY keyboard looks well designed. However, it felt a bit cramped. I made my fair share of typos, partially because I was getting used to the feel of the keyboard, and partially because I couldn't see what letter I was pressing (no iPhone-style pop-up letters).

The music/media player was pretty straightforward, offering categories such as album, artist, etc..., and is all touch-friendly. The VU has a microSD card slot in its back panel that supports cards as big as 8 GB.

The proprietary LG browser pales in comparison to mobile Opera or mobile Safari, and has trouble displaying full-size webpages. Browsing the Gizmodo page was slow and choppy, and the method of scrolling and panning the screen felt unintuitive, perhaps because it's the opposite of the iPhone and iPod touch.

The text message interface does not use the conversation thread style of displaying text messages (a la Palm and BlackBerry), in some ways negating the ease of the touchscreen interface.

The interface also had a few quirks that didn't quite make sense to me. The default keyboard for text entry is an on-screen 10-digit pad that simulates the 0-9 keys on a real phone. The default browsing orientation is portrait mode. Both have to be toggled on and off via buttons on the touchscreen—the landscape/portrait button was particularly vague.

All in all, the Vu's strengths lie in its multimedia features, but the phone could benefit from further embracing the interface design found in some of today's smarter smartphones.